Results tagged ‘ Phillies ’

Herndon Gone

The Blue Jays claimed right-hander David Herndon off waivers today.

The Phillies removed Herndon from the 40-man roster, which was not a surprise. He is recovering from Tommy John surgery and had been eligible for salary arbitration. Plus, several relief pitchers had moved ahead of him on the depth chart. Interestingly, to make room for Herndon on their 40-man roster, the Blue Jays designated Tyson Brummett for assignment. They claimed Brummett from the Phillies last week.

The Phillies have three players eligible for salary arbitration: left-hander Antonio Bastardo, outfielder Nate Schierholtz and infielder Kevin Frandsen.

Sandberg’s Journey Back

I had a chance to speak with Ryne Sandberg earlier today about his journey back to the big leagues.

It took him six years of managing in the minors before the Phillies hired him as third base coach. That seemed like a long time to a lot of people: Hall of Fame second baseman can’t get a job in the big leagues? What’s up with that? But Sandberg sounded like a patient guy who had no trouble paying his dues. He is well aware there are plenty more coaches in the minor leagues that have been coaching a lot longer than six years before getting the call.

Case in point: new Phillies bullpen coach Rod Nichols spent the previous 13 seasons in the minors.

Everybody considers Sandberg the heir apparent to Charlie Manuel, whose contract expires after next season. Manuel said he is not worried about any questions that might pop up next season about his future, which could happen if the Phillies start slowly.

Asked if he felt he needed to have a conversation with Manuel about any of those potential questions from pesky reporters, Sandberg said, “We’ll both be fine. I’ve been around him long enough. I feel like he has a trust in all of his coaches. I don’t think I’d be on his coaching staff if there wasn’t a trust level and a comfort level. I think we’ve developed a trust these last two years, both in Spring Training and in September as a call up. We’re very comfortable with each other. I enjoy being around him, and I think he feels the same way about me. And now we’ll work together. We have a common goal: winning as many games as we can and get to a World Series.”

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Thursday Notes

A few notes today regarding the Phillies:

  • The Blue Jays claimed right-hander Tyson Brummett off waivers. Brummett spent most of the season with Double-A Reading and Triple-A Lehigh Valley before making his big-league debut with the Phillies on Oct. 3.
  • The Phillies outrighted infielder Pete Orr and catcher Steve Lerud from the 40-man roster. The Phillies have 37 players on the roster, plus four players on the 60-day disabled list.
  • Phillies third base prospect Cody Asche is hitting .360 with four doubles and three RBIs in six games in the Arizona Fall League. Infielder Freddy Galvis is hitting .460 with one double, one triple, three home runs and five RBIs in Winter Ball in Venezuela. Outfield prospect Tyson Gillies has hit .467 with one double, one triple and two RBIs in four games in Venezuela. Darin Ruf is hitting .133 in four games in Venezuela.
  • Phillies hitting coach Steve Henderson will wear No. 5 next season. Assistant hitting coach Wally Joyner will wear No. 21. Bullpen coach Rod Nichols will wear No. 54. And third base coach Ryne Sandberg will wear No. 23, assuming catcher Brian Schneider does not return next season.

Jimmy Is Good

The news conference yesterday at Citizens Bank Park with Ruben Amaro Jr. and Charlie Manuel lasted 42 glorious minutes, and it pretty much had three themes:

  1. The coaching staff changes, which included Ryne Sandberg‘s arrival as third base coach and as Manuel’s possible replacement.
  2. Amaro’s thoughts on the offseason.
  3. How in the world can the Phillies possibly survive another season with Jimmy Rollins?!?!?!?!?

There were about 5,900 words in the 42-minute transcript. Nearly 1,200 covered Rollins.

Who knew Rollins was 20 percent of this team’s problems?

Listen, I understand Rollins can be frustrating. He doesn’t always hustle, and there’s simply no excuse for it. He popped out in the infield 42 times this season to lead the big leagues. That is painful to watch. He also hit just .250 with a .316 on-base percentage, his lowest OBP since 2009 (.296).

But let’s put Rollins’ season into perspective, shall we?

Here is how he ranked among all shortstops in Major League Baseball:

  • Third in WAR (5.0).
  • Fourth out of 21 qualifying shortstops with a .429 slugging percentage.
  • First in runs (102).
  • Second in home runs (23).
  • Second in doubles (33) and walks (68).
  • Fourth in RBIs (68).
  • Tied for fifth in triples (5).
  • Sixth with a .746 OPS.

Not bad.

I know some folks might not want to hear it, but Rollins was one of the better shortstops in baseball this season, both offensively and defensively. Now, one can make the argument the Phillies would be better served with somebody else hitting leadoff, considering Rollins’ low on-base percentage. (Playing devil’s advocate, Rollins’ superior base running allows him to take advantage of the times he is on base, which might explain his 102 runs scored.) But just because the Phillies don’t have another option at leadoff doesn’t mean Rollins should be pinned as the crux of this team’s offensive problems. He isn’t. But that is how it is portrayed.

“Two months ago, I heard somebody talk about (Michael) Bourn from Atlanta and you know how good he’d be in the leadoff hole, but Jimmy Rollins has more production than Bourn has and things like that,” Manuel said. “What I’m getting at is who
out there in the Major Leagues does any better than Jimmy in the leadoff hole? If you find that guy, mention him to me.”

This team has bigger fish to fry than Rollins. There is Chase Utley‘s health. There is Ryan Howard‘s health. There is the entire outfield (Amaro said yesterday nobody is guaranteed a spot in next season’s outfield). There is third base.

Shortstop is one of the only solid spots in the lineup.

Rollins isn’t a perfect hitter when compared to every other hitter at every other position in baseball. But compare him to other shotstops in baseball and he’s still producing. So focus the ire and frustration elsewhere.

Changes to Coaching Staff; Sandberg Likely In

More changes are coming.

The Phillies announced their first changes following today’s season finale at Nationals Park, where they informed bench coach Pete Mackanin, hitting coach Greg Gross and first base coach Sam Perlozzo they will not be back in 2013.

“I think when you want to do some things, people on your staff, most of the time they’re the ones that have to be let go or moved or whatever,” Phillies manager Charlie Manuel explained. “I think that’s just the position it’s in.”

Mackanin replaced Jimy Williams as bench coach following the 2008 season. Perlozzo replaced third base coach Steve Smith following the 2008 season before moving to first base in 2011. Gross, who served two tours as Phillies hitting coach, rejoined the team in July 2010, when the Phillies fired Milt Thompson.

It is expected Triple-A Lehigh Valley manager Ryne Sandberg will join the coaching staff in 2013, unless he takes a big-league managing job elsewhere.

The coaching staff changes will only lead to more significant changes on the 25-man roster.

“We’re definitely going to have some changes on our roster,” Manuel said. “How many or what, I really don’t know. From talking to Ruben (Amaro Jr.), we’re going to try to get better and get back to compete, win our division and have a chance at the World Series.”

Evaluation from the Inside

The Phillies say they assess everything in the offseason from the 40-man roster to the Minor League system to the coaching staff.

Even the scouting department.

“Just like in any other part of our organization, everybody is being evaluated,” Ruben Amaro Jr. said. “Everybody.”

Even himself?

“Oh, I would think so,” he said.

Every organization has hits and misses throughout the year: good and bad free agent signings, good and bad trades, a player released that should not have been released, a player that got promoted that surprised everybody, etc.

The trick is minimizing the misses.

The Phillies have had some misses lately. They released right-hander Jason Grilli in July 2011. He had a 1.93 ERA in Triple-A Lehigh Valley at the time. He signed with the Pirates, and had a 2.91 ERA in 64 appearances this season. They acquired outfielder John Bowker from the Pirates in Aug. 2011, considering him a better bench option than Lehigh Valley outfielder Brandon Moss. Bowker went hitless in 13 at-bats, while Moss, who had a fantastic season in Lehigh Valley, signed a contract with Oakland in December. He has hit .287 with 21 home runs, 47 RBIs and a .947 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 258 at-bats this season. They signed Laynce Nix to a two-year, $2.5 million deal in December, despite the fact he had never signed a big-league contract before and had a lengthy history of injuries. They signed Chad Qualls in January, despite terrible splits away from PETCO Park. He stunk, and the Phillies traded him to the Yankees on July 1. And one wonders why they did not have legitimate interest in somebody like Josh Willingham, who looks like a steal with the three-year, $21 million contract he signed with the Twins.

Now, the Phillies signed Juan Pierre to a Minor League contract, which was a big bargain. He has hit .310 with 37 stolen bases and has been a positive presence in the clubhouse. They acquired left-hander Jeremy Horst from Cincinnati for Wilson Valdez in the offseason, which looks like an absolute steal. Horst is 2-0 with a 1.19 ERA in 31 appearances, while Valdez (but … but … but … he was the team MVP in 2010!) is hitting .203 with a .458 OPS with the Reds. Other Minor League free agent signings like Kevin Frandsen and Erik Kratz played well enough that they could be on next season’s Opening Day roster. The signings of Jonathan Papelbon and Jimmy Rollins also worked out well in their first seasons, although a contract can never truly be judged until the end. But Papelbon did his job, and Rollins will finish among the top third of shortstops in baseball in OPS.

“We evaluate all those things,” Amaro said of the good and bad moves. “We don’t hit on every single guy. At the same time I think we’ve done a very good job hitting on most. I have a great deal of trust in Mike Ondo, who heads up our pro scouting staff. He’s as thorough and as good as there is. I think Mike and his people did a great job at the Trade Deadline. We got some very, very good players. We came away with some players that we believe really helped our organization and are going to make some impact on our club pretty soon.

“Listen, we’re talking about human beings here. When you try to make moves that you think will work out and don’t for whatever reason, a lot of the stuff is not under your control. I feel pretty confident in the people that we employ to be the eyes and ears of our organization. I think we have as good a group of people in our baseball ops department as any club in baseball.”

One thing is certain: the Phillies need more hits this offseason. They need to find the next Willingham. They need to sign a relief pitcher or two where, unlike Qualls, they don’t have to cross their fingers and hope things break right for them to have good seasons. They need to find the right solution at third base, despite almost no attractive options.

Howard Breaks Toe, Season Finished

It is a fitting end to a forgettable season.

Ryan Howard, who missed much of 2012 following left Achilles surgery, broke his right big toe Thursday at Citizens Bank Park, where he dropped the lead pipe his swings in the on-deck circle squarely on his toe. Howard said an x-ray Thursday revealed a small fracture in the toe, which will require nothing more than rest to heal.

But his season is over.

So what’s next for the Phillies’ $125 million man? Only the most important offseason of his career.

Howard hit .219 with 11 doubles, 14 home runs and 56 RBIs in 71 games. His batting average, on-base percentage (.295), slugging percentage (.423) and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (.718) are career lows, but he projected to 127 RBIs over a full season because he hit .329 with runners in scoring position.

“I know I’m a better hitter than that,” Howard said. “But I think for being able to come in and try to do the best I could and contribute, still being able to get 56 RBIs and 14 home runs and whatnot, considering everything that had gone on and not really having a Spring Training to properly get ready for the season, I look at that as a positive.”

(more…)

Utley Won’t Play Third

The Phillies have pulled the plug on the Chase Utley third base experiment.

Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. and manager Charlie Manuel said Friday at Marlins Park that Utley will not play third base before the end of the season, leaving the Phillies’ future at the position murky. Utley initiated the idea of a move from second to third and had been working out there for weeks, but the Phillies decided they could not make a credible evaluation about his ability to play there on a long-term basis in just six games.

“It’s kind of on hold, I guess,” Amaro said. “It’s more of a matter of practicality and what’s really best for the team overall. I think while having that option would be helpful, I don’t know if it’s really an option that’s going to make us necessarily better.”

That seems to put the Phillies in a tough spot.

Amaro has made it clear the free agent market for third basemen is not impressive. It is a list that includes Kevin Youkilis, Scott Rolen and Brandon Inge. The Phillies could try to trade for a third baseman, but good luck getting somebody like Chase Headley from the San Diego Padres. Internally, the Phillies seem to view Kevin Frandsen as a part-time player, while Freddy Galvis, who would have been the team’s second baseman had Utley made the switch, has never played third base.

“It doesn’t really change things all that much,” Amaro insisted. “It can be revisited, with Chase being an option. It just doesn’t make any sense for us to have him out there for six games and think that that’s going to change our minds one way or another. It’s not a dead issue. It’s just kind of unfair to the player and to us to think we can make an evaluation in six games and say, ‘OK, shazam, this guy can play.’ That’s not necessarily fair to him. We’re not good enough scouts to make that determination.”

Amaro and Manuel are meeting with players before the end of the season. They met Friday with Utley and Jimmy Rollins.

Amaro said Utley was OK with their decision to keep him at second.

“He’s fine,” Amaro said. “He only came to us because he thought it might help our club, because he knows it’s an area of need.”

Asked about his No. 1 priority this offseason, Amaro said, “I don’t know if we have a No. 1. I think offense is important to us. I’d like to create some balance from the right side offensively. I think that’s something that would help. Having a healthy Chooch (Carlos Ruiz) would help that, but he gets banged up so we have to be cognizant of that. Third base is an issue we have to deal with. I think while we have some very, very good arms in the bullpen we’ll keep an eye on that as well.”

But Amaro also said the Phillies might need to be creative to fill some holes this offseason. Rather than maybe spending big money on the big name on the free agent market, perhaps they will spend more judiciously.

“I think patience is going to be important throughout this offseason,” he said. “And the reason that I say that is some of the opportunities that will present themselves … none of the opportunities that present themselves, at least at first blush, are all that fantastic. I think we’re going to have to, as far as the availability of all players, I think we’re going to have to be creative to try to improve. There are only a few standout guys out there that would be potential free agents.”

Maybe the Phillies look to Galvis to play third base. They had said Galvis would be the second baseman if Utley played third, so they could simply switch spots.

“He did work out there during Spring Training,” Amaro said. “And overall, pretty good reviews on how he handled it. He didn’t do it in any games. But the man went from short to second and was awesome. And now … I don’t know if it’s that much of a stretch to move him to third base and not think he’d be a plus defender.”

Amaro and Manuel said they would keep the door open on Utley trying third base again. Perhaps Utley will spend his offseason working out there and want to give it a shot in Spring Training.

Perhaps.

“If you stop and think about it, he definitely has a big say in it,” Manuel said. “He has to feel comfortable, really good about it. He would do anything to win, but … we’ll just see. It’ll always be there if we want to do that.”

But for now the Phillies will go into the offseason looking for a third baseman.

Halladay Scheduled to Start Saturday

Roy Halladay is expected to start as scheduled Saturday against the Marlins in Miami.

Halladay suffered the second-shortest start of his career Saturday against the Braves at Citizens Bank Park. He cited spasms in the back of his right shoulder as a culprit, only adding to his list of frustrations this season. But after throwing 32 pitches in a bullpen session today, Rich Dubee pronounced Halladay ready to go.

“Right now, absolutely,” Dubee said. “Unless he has some type of setback, if the spasms came back or whatever. But today was very encouraging.”

Dubee said Halladay, who spent time on the disabled list earlier this season with a strained right latissimus dorsi, looked like a completely different pitcher than the one that lasted just 1 2/3 innings against the Braves.

He reiterated if there is no risk of injury and Halladay wants to pitch, Halladay should pitch.

“This guy is super accountable,” Dubee said. “He feels like he should carry his end of the bargain. And he has. First of all, he came back faster than we expected from the injury with one rehab start. Second of all, there are a lot of guys in this game that wouldn’t have come back as early, if come back, period. They would have just laid down for the year, and this guy wasn’t about to lay down.

“This is the top of accountability. He isn’t happy with his season. He came here to win, and he feels like he didn’t hold up his end of the bargain. I think he’s held up more than his end of the bargain just coming back from the injury that he came back from. But he’s going to do anything he can to come back next year. He is open minded and we’re going to put together a program that hopefully that is going to fix all this.”

Dubee said Halladay had no symptoms of the spasms that derailed him Saturday. He also said it wasn’t the first time he had them this season.

“You guys don’t know half of what goes on,” he said. “He’s fought this from time to time. He’s fought this at different times in his career, too. Why stuff crops up, who knows?”

Dubee said he hasn’t placed Halladay on a pitch count Saturday. Like always, he will let the flow of the game dictate how long he pitches.

Phillies: Why Not Pitch Halladay?

If Roy Halladay wants to pitch one more time this season, he will.

Halladay suffered the second-shortest start of his career Saturday because of spasms behind his right shoulder, but will throw a bullpen session tomorrow afternoon at Citizens Bank Park to try to extend his season. If it goes well, the Phillies said Halladay will pitch this Saturday against the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park.

“I wouldn’t say it’s all his decision,” Rich Dubee said today. “We’ve involved our medical staff.”

The Phillies said medical exams Friday and Sunday show no structural damage in Halladay’s right shoulder.

“Why not pitch him?” Dubee said. “It’s not a structural thing. It’s a spasm. They’re two different things. If it’s structural we definitely shut him down. He’d like to pitch. I think when you’ve got a guy like him, he deserves that. If he feels like he’d like to go out there and pitch, why not? Especially if you feel confident from the doctor’s reports there’s nothing structurally wrong.”

But the Phillies have reduced Halladay’s workload. They pushed his start to Saturday to reduce the spasms, which eliminated the possibility he could pitch twice before the end of the season. That will give him a jumpstart on the offseason, where he is expected to implement a new offseason workout program to prevent future shoulder problems.

“I think Roy is going to be fine,” Dubee said.

The Phillies can only hope.

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